Thanksgiving Wine Guide: Don’t Pick A Turkey!

 Thanksgiving is 2 weeks away.

Get off your duff and start getting ready. It will be here soon enough. You don’t want too many of the million and one little details to get set-aside until the last minute, now do you?

So make a list. There must be several of the chores you can get done early. And by early I mean– today!

One of the details that is easy to pre-plan is the wine. You have a pretty good idea about the menu, right? So there is no reason to wait in making this decision. Please don’t let it be an after-thought, or worse yet, don’t let it become a stressful decision.

So to help you (and by “you” I mean “me”) get one of these details checked off the to do list good and early, I asked my brother Grant for a simple run down of what he expects from a Thanksgiving wine. After all he is the Sip! half of SippitySup and this is a detail that falls firmly in his court.

He didn’t disappoint either. He put together some guidelines and even made a few suggestions. I know you will be happy to get this taken care of now. Because you have bigger fish to fry, err well, I mean turkeys to baste… GREG

So with out any further (annoying) interuptions from Sup!

Sip! Sez…

If your Thanksgiving gatherings are anything like mine, these adjectives might sound familiar: dry, tasteless, overdone, raw, and unsavory… and those just apply to my friends and relatives!

All kidding aside, Thanksgiving can be a stressful time, and the easier things are the better for everyone involved. Whether you are providing the entire feast–wine and all, or just in charge of bringing the wine, selecting the wine should not add to that holiday-induced stress.

So I thought I’d start with few guidelines that will simplify your Thanksgiving wine buying:

  • With such a wide variety of foods and flavor profiles, simple and relatively inexpensive wines are the best way to go. Save your best wines for more focused meals.

  • Keep yourself limited to no more than one red, one white, and/or one dessert wine. Too many choices for your guests will confuse them.

  • Serve your reds a little chilled (65–70 degrees), especially the lighter, fruitier ones. Room temp reds tend to “feel” more filling.

Below, I’ve listed a few wines in several categories that I believe will enhance your holiday dining experience. None cost more than about $20 or so, and most should be relatively easy to find at your local wine shop and finer grocery stores. If you can’t find a specific wine, talk to the wine shop staff and ask for recommendations.

Sparkling Wines

chandon brutI’ve always believed that you don’t need a special occasion to enjoy sparkling wine. That doesn’t mean, however, that you don’t need a sparkling wine to enjoy a special occasion!  Holidays are a perfect time for sparkling wines, especially if they are dry and crisp.  They are festive AND food-friendly.

Domaine Chandon’s Rose Brut ($18) is an excellent way to start off your Thanksgiving gathering. Deep pink in color, with aromas of red fruits as well as apple, this sparkler from California is crisp, and bursting with flavor. Strawberries, apple and pear flavors lead into a nice creamy finish. Drink this on its own or pair it with holiday appetizers. In fact, this wine hits on so many flavor profiles it could carry you right through dinner.

I also recommend:  Louis Bouillot Perle de Vigne “Grande ©serve” Brut ($16); NV Domaine Ste Michelle Blancs de Blancs ($12); and Zardetto Procseco Brut ($12).


If you had to pick one wine to cover the whole day, I’d go with a white wine.  It should be crisp to slightly off-dry, fragrant, and fruity.  Sure, that big, oaky California chardonnay would work well with roasted turkey, but it would miss on so many other flavors throughout the meal that I think it should be avoided.

Riesling is a great choice for Thanksgiving, and I look for dry, to slightly off dry, German rieslings. With balanced acidity and huge flavors of peach, apricot and green apple, rieslings are great with poultry, and work as a counter-balance to salty meats like a Thanksgiving ham and sausage stuffing.

Sauvignon blanc is always comfortable at a party, as long as food is involved. Light and crisp, sauvignon blanc’s herbaceous, grassy or mineral elements are a great choice for vegetables and would be especially delicious with an herb-roasted turkey, and herb-laden stuffing.

 trimbachViognier would work here, too. Floral and fruity with ample weight, viognier pairs well with butter and cream (mashed potatoes), roasted poultry (turkey), and baking spices, dried fruits and nuts (stuffing & sweet potatoes.)

But I am choosing Trimbach Gewurztraminer 2007 ($18). Aromas of lychee, orange peel, tropical fruits and rose petal are followed by flavors of rich citrus, spices and a touch of pineapple.  With plenty of body, and nice acidity, this Alsatian gewurztraminer has a wonderful “spiciness” that pairs well with turkey, but also favors sweet potatoes with nutmeg, cloves, ginger, etc., as well as many other traditional thanksgiving side dishes.

I also recommend: Dr. Loosen’s Dr. L Riesling QbA, 2008 ($12); Alan Scott Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (12); and Cline Viognier California ($12).


As much as I love my whites, I Luuurrve my reds!

But your typical Thanksgiving spread can cause a few problems for full-bodied, highly tannic red wines. I invite only fruity, light to medium-bodied reds with nice acidity and low tannins to sit at my Thanksgiving table. Fresh and young is a good rule of thumb when making your choice.

Pinot Noir is typically seen as most people’s Thanksgiving workhorse red wine. I’d look for a fruit-forward Russian River or Willamette Valley Pinot Noir in most cases, but a slightly aged, earthy Burgundian wine can be fantastic with a nice mushroomy stuffing.

But sticking to my fresh and fruity rule, you can’t go wrong with Beaujolais. What about Beaujoais Nouveau, you ask? Sure!  Its young, fresh and jam-packed with fruit. So what if it is really just the product of a (successful) marketing campaign? But if you really want to know what beaujolais is about, I recommend picking up a Fleurie or Morgon; two of the area’s ten Cru classifications.

seghesio I also suggest a fruity syrah or shiraz (same grape.)  Just enough pepper and spice to pair well with roasted turkey and all the fixings.

Thanksgiving, however, is an American Holiday, so I’m picking an American (arguably) red wine varietal: Zinfandel. Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2008 ($18) has aromas of blackberry, plum, licorice and spice. Big fruit flavors on the palate, and a nice peppery finish keep up with all the disparate flavors of the holiday feast. This is an ideal choice for those wanting a slightly fuller red, without all the “big red” tannins.

I also recommend: Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir 2008 ($20); Georges Duboeuf Fleurie 2008 ($16); Marquis Phillips Shiraz 2008 ($12)

 Dessert Wine

dessert wineThere are so many great choices for Thanksgiving dessert that it is usually difficult to decide.  I’ve tried the “I’ll just have a sliver of each” approach before, but I either ended up with 6 plates, or pie slices so thin you could see through them!  So I’ve learned to commit to just one perfectly portioned slice of whichever one looks the best, and focus on what’s in front of me. I recommend the same strategy for dessert wine.

This thanksgiving my one dessert wine will be  Ceretto Moscato d’Asti Vignaioli Di Santo Stefano 2008. Peachy aromas mingling with green apples and flowers, with more of the same on the palate.  The wine works with a wide variety of dessert flavors, especially fruit-based pies, and can even serve as dessert on its own.  Slightly fizzy to cut through all the richness of custard-based pies, and light and crisp, so it won’t feel cloying and filling.  Best of all, this is a low alcohol wine, which is a good idea since the wine, beer and booze has probably been flowing freely all day.


Serious Fun Food (and Wine!)